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Which Browser uses least Resources in Windows?

Illustrations: Gordon McAlpin

There have been many articles comparing the browser resource usage of the three most powerful browsers: Google Chrome 10, Internet Explorer 9 and Mozilla Firefox 4. But we’re taking a different approach, as our goal is to help you optimize your browser experience. We want to know which browser uses least resources (less CPU and less memory) while running the same set of tasks.

This test is especially important for netbooks, where single-core CPUs are common and RAM is at a premium. Ideally, there’s a single browser that can still do everything you need, while using the least amount of system resources. Let’s begin our browser resource usage test!

We’re going to run each browser with four tabs open: YouTube with an HD movie playing, Facebook with a Flash game running, Google Maps in 3D view, and Twitter client Hootsuite. Then, we’re going to see how much each browser uses in CPU and RAM using the Windows Task Manager.

I’m conducting this test on a dual-core Toshiba laptop of recent vintage.

Google Chrome had eight processes running with only four tabs, which seemed excessive. As with all of these browsers, RAM and CPU usage fluctuated a lot, but as a snapshot, Chrome used about 344,000 megabytes of RAM and about 31% of CPU. Chrome takes the cake for RAM usage, and seems to have become more bloated with each new version.

Microsoft Internet Explorer confined things to one process for each tab for a total of 3, and about 294,268 megabytes of RAM, on par with Chrome. However, it used 60% of CPU, almost double Chrome’s usage. As is typical of Microsoft products, even the newest IE is a huge CPU hog.

Mozilla Firefox, interestingly enough, has a single process for a page with multiple tabs open; however, it also opened a plugin container when the YouTube movie was being played. These two processes only used 266,000 megabytes of RAM and 35% of CPU. The newest Firefox seems to be really light on its feet compared to its web browser cousins as far as RAM goes, though the CPU usage is the same as Chrome.

So there you have it. If you’re using a netbook, and plan to have a lot of tabs open with Flash games, complicated websites and so on, Firefox 4 seems to be the way to go. Your machine will handle it much easier than other browsers.

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